Sportsman’s Cove Lodge sits in a quiet refuge named Saltery Cove. Believe it or not, this private little cove was once a bustling community with all kinds of sailing ships moored inside and a big fish processing facility called “Straits Packing Company” as the focal point.
In the late 1800’s our Cove hosted a saltery – hence the name Saltery Cove. What’s a saltery? Salteries were the predecessors to canneries. In those days the only way to preserve commercially caught fish was to “salt” or “dry” the fish.
As technology improved, the saltery was converted to a cannery in 1915. The cove was now a thriving village with all kinds of ships and commercial fish buying boats (a.k.a. “Tenders”) at anchor. Just behind Sportsman’s Cove Lodge were two large homes that housed the cannery managers. You can still find relics such as old wood pipes, opium bottles, and the remains of collapsed cabins that housed the cannery workers.
In the early 1900’s canneries were almost always remote because they had to be located close to the best fishing grounds. There was no refrigeration on the tenders and it was crucial that the fish didn’t spoil before being delivered to the canneries. But as refrigeration became available on the tenders, it was no longer necessary for canneries to be located close to the fishing grounds. Many of the remote canneries like the one in our cove began struggling by the late 30’s. It was becoming much more efficient to relocate canneries close to larger towns like Ketchikan where there were services and cannery owners didn’t have to provide room and board for their employees.
Needless to say the cannery in Saltery Cove went out of business in the late 1930’s. It sat empty for about twenty years until it was bought from a developer who subdivided the property and sold off the lots.
Mother Nature has claimed the old cannery and most everything else, but there’s still a wood dam partially intact that was used to generate electricity for the community. We have a few neighbors that live in the cove year-round and still depend on the dam for electricity during much of the year. The dam also acts as a backup water system for Sportsman’s Cove Lodge during drought years.
There is very little privately owned land in all of Alaska today. State or Federal governments control most of the land. Fortunately, the land where Sportsman’s Cove Lodge sits was “Grandfathered” into privately held property. Had it not, we wouldn’t be here enjoying this awesome serenity and camaraderie today!